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but there's a certain kind of quality of it. maybe that's because it's under justice. .. >> which has a number of implicati. but one of which is, obviously, that their notion of their nation's history is very compact. they really did not experience the struggle against apartheid. and the other part of it, of
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course, is south africa like so many other countries has been sort of hit by the globalization of their economy, and so it's led to as it has here this incredible divide between those who have and those who don't. and many of those who don't tend to be the young people. and jonathan is this young boy who, when you meet him, is essentially homeless. >> yeah. he's living -- >> and very troubled. >> living on the street, sleeping in an alley when i first peat him. having run -- meet him. having run away from a township known as atlantis. not the miraculous place, but rather a very real place that was part of the formal process of apartheid was removing people, eliminating the black spots from places like capetown. people were pushed out, in this case about 40 miles away from capetown, concentrated in areas where there was no industry ask
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the rest of it. -- and the rest of it. so we understand what spatial apartheid looks like in chicago. formal apartheid in which that kind of separation was imposed by law. and be as a result of that, predictable results. the only industry there is the drug industry which jonathan had come up in. his step dad was a big dealer, and he had run away to the streets. so he becomes, in a way, the story intended to explain to people why south africa's still such a violent place and what it is, the logic, that takes somebody who's a very decent kid with a big struggle with his moral conscience about what he will do and won't do. but we see him go fromming beina runaway, homeless runaway, to becoming a beggar, to becoming a thief and then an armed thief and worse.
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he becomes our window into how that happens for so many young south africans. >> and i'm curious, i mean, how were you able to win his trust the way you were? because he talks about things that could conceivably get him into great trouble. >> yeah. i think i had, you know, i had -- i know you've had this experience, too, where you go and see somebody, and you wonder how much of what they told you is true and whether you'll ever see them again. so with each of the main six young people who stitched the narrative together for me, um, i probably had ten who i was thinking about playing a certain role. and jonathan from the beginning, since i'd gotten to know street kids in johannesburg and durbin and capetown was one of those kids whose story kept haunting me because of where he had come
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from and the way in which he talked about the choices ahead for him. and it really probably was the fourth or fifth time i went and just hung out with him, which is always a challenging thing, you know? you're an older, white guy from america hanging out with colored street kids. and as a result of that, you probably have to spend more time doing it until you fall into the background. with him i think he ended up finally telling we the whole story -- telling me the whole story because i kept coming back, and because with i asked. i kept asking. i remembered what he had said the last time, and when he lied to me, i was a able to catch him out because i knew enough of his friends that i could say, you know, but that's not what colin says. and so i caught him out enough times, and i checked up on his story enough times, and and i
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think he was, you know, at a certain point kind of astounding that i was patient enough to come back. i think probably the other thing is that he knew that i cared about him. he knew that i had some respect for what he was facing even if he also knew that i had deep concern and some judgment about what he was deciding to do and the bad things that he was doing. >> in fact, i remember a part in the book where he talks about holding people up, and doug was hold up in capetown by gunpoint, and doug tells him that could have been me, and he reflects on it for a moment and yet still continues to justify what he's doing. but it always astonishes me, i think when you spend some time with someone like jonathan, there's the natural reluctance and distrust people have, but i think in the end not only a willingness, but sometimes an eagerness to share their stories because nobody's ever asked them
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anything about themselves. and so for the first time, they're kind of forced to reflect on their own lives. and i sense that with jonathan. >> yeah. no, and i -- just as you were talking, i was remembering this point when i went to see him, and there was a long -- what i would do, so he's 15, i'm quite a bit older, you knowsome. >> not much. >> i go out to this dormitory, and i don't know what experience you've had talking to teenagers, but you don't sit across like i'm facing you. you sit sideways, like alex and i. and probably i would be postally looking at the ceiling, asking him questions because that's the way i would get the most interesting information. and that was the day he told metahe had kill -- he told me that he had killed people and that he had killed people for hire. and i had a choice, you know, of either responding the way i was
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feeling -- which is to be freaked out and to be judgmental -- or could i swallow that long enough to find out the full story. and i think there were, you know, in my relationship with him over time there have been all kinds of ethical questions that have come up that i don't have bright line answers for. you know, one of the things that's a big challenge about doing this kind of story and doing this kind of book is that it plunges you in the middle of all kinds of nuanced difficult ethical questions that aren't easy to answer. and the only way you escape them is either by being deaf to them or by pretending that they don't exist or by never including shall be like jonathan in your narrative. >> right. no, it's interesting, i mean, you know, both of us teach, i think it's really when you teach ethic bs, i mean, there are very clear ethics in our profession, but you're absolutely right when
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you're dealing with somebody like jonathan, you are faced with conundrums and questions that you would never have considered. um, you know, i have a couple of questions before we'll take questions from you guys. what is -- i'm curious what the reception of the book's been like in south africa. >> i expected that i would really get slammed in the reviews because, you know, there's a pattern of people coming from outside south africa to tell the south african story and either to do the miracle story, you know? nelson mandela was the miracle leader of the exceptional place, the rainbow nation, etc., you know, we tell the story and sing "kumbaya", do a little dance. [laughter] one version. and the other version is it's all crap, right? it was all soiled and terrible trick that the nc played.
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and so i kind of figured i would get pegged as one or the other. rhea milan said i seemed to be immune to pessimism, and i actually take that as a point of ride. also not softheaded or softhearted about what i'm seeing. that's the kind of trip that i tried to make. so the reviews have been quite good. seems to be selling and sort of bracing for that first really brutal review. it hasn't happened yet. >> have you heard from zuma? >> i have heard indirectly from president zuma who gave me a lot of time, eight interviews, more time than anybody else has ever had from him. and i kind of expected, i don't know, actually, what i expected. he's still trying to absorb what he thinks of the portrait that's been drawn of him, is the best
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way to put it. >> and my final question is, as i read the book, i couldn't help but think of the arab spring and sort of what it means to come out of this, you know, very difficult period as a nation and try to find your way to some kind of democratic rule. and i guess given your experience in south africa, what are the lessons that you see for a country like egypt, for instance? >> yeah. i think there are a well bunch as we think about parts of the world where particularly there's a big generational claim, a big generational grievance on cultural grounds, economic grounds and the rest. one is that it's not -- revolt isn't necessarily driven by economic hardship. the unemployment rate in egypt among young egyptians was much better than the unemployment
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rate among young blacks in south africa. that the likelihood of conflagration and a kind of explosive reaction is often based on any kind of expectation that there's some traction and that people are going to be able to get somewhere without a massive revolt. i think that's one lesson. the second lesson, i think, is this kind of generational question. is there place for a generational voice? is there a place for people to be allowed to shape their future without being dragged back into debates of the past? and i think in both cases it's an open question. we see things developing in a much more, um, sustained way in south africa partly because the transition occurred largely peacefully. >> right. well, it's interesting, i mean, the rebellion in south africa was not necessarily, not
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necessarily driven by youth. i mean, unlike in egypt or now as we see in turkey or syria. >> well, it was certainly led by an older generation, but they were once young. >> they were once young. we all were once young. >> i mean, when you think about the uprising, that was 1976. so you see people forced into prison, forced into exile and forced into a guerrilla war for all those years. and so what you hope is that it doesn't take three decades for the arab spring to yield more sustainable steps toward fully democratic societies. >> and are there lessons that you take away from your time in south africa for here? >> absolutely. i think the biggest is 11 official languages. so a kind of cultural pluralism that, you know, coming from
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california i grew up during the battles over bilingual education, the idea that we should be dealing with each other in two languages. well, i've just been spending a ton of time in a place where i only speak one of 11 official languages, right? so you go to a place, there's a wonderful place if newtown -- in newtown, this part of johannesburg that kind of helps represent this hybridizing, modernizing, cultural place, a kind of african cosmopolitan place. it's a café where people come and do spoken word, sort of like louder than a bomb. except in five or six or seven languages. and, you know, you'll walk in there and somebody will begin a poem and then lapse into english. have a little zulu, go into
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afrikan and somehow that entire group of 300 people gets enough of the gist of what's going on to have the experience of that kind of cross-cultural exchange ing. that means people who grew up speaking 11 different languages are in the room together and having one conversation. so i think there's a ton that we have to learn about that. i think even though it will sound odd to say, i think we have a ton to learn about how to talk about race from south africans, even though they're much more recently out of a politics defined by an extreme, strange form of racial segregation. there's much more open can conversation about -- open conversation about race in johannesburg or capetown or
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durbin or if you're in a township outside johannesburg, then we have, we tend to have two conversations going on; one in our heads and then what's actually being said. and there's a big gap in that conversation. i don't think that's true at least in the circles of young people that i've been traveling in in south africa. so i think those two things are big. and then maybe the third thing that's important to say is that memorialized in the south african constitution is a commitment to social and economic justice, to nonracialism, to nonbe sexism -- nonsexism, to picking sexual orientation as protected as any other category and to social justice and egalitarianism. so there's a way in which at least those goals as far as the country, certainly, and the party certainly falls short of those goals, but at least those
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goals are codified and understood as the core values of the country. >> and i think we'd like to think that those are the core values here. but as you say, their not often -- they're not often articulated in any real way. with that, why -- love to open it up to questions from the audience. about what doug has talked about, about the book, about south africa. please. >> hi. >> hi. >> i'll go first. it's been said that the reason for the transition of power, the reason that was peaceful is because it didn't bring about any real economic reform that absent like real land redistribution, the inequalities were due to continue and, with the poverty and the violation. can could you comment on that? >> sure. thanks for the question. the big accommodation that was made by the anc in the negotiations that led to the
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first election as you probably know was to keep the terms private property rights and the basic struts of the economy protected. that was the trade-off. the crude way of putting it is the vote and the right to have an effect in politics in exchange for no radical change in the economic structure, no radical redistribution of wealth. so 80% of land, 80% of wealth was held by whites, a minority of about 9%. and that entwining of race and class absolutely constrains the ability for a people to feel that political liberation was followed by economic liberation. and that is the biggest challenge for the government and for the society, is figuring out legal ways in which to alter those dynamics.
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now at the same time, in the last 19 years two million black people have moved into middle income stat that. -- strata. so not often, clearly, but also not enough so we want to be careful in terms of how we evaluate what's going on there. but certainly, that, you know, the entire thrust of the liberation movement of was to disentwine these two things, race and class, that had been entwined for so long by law. and that disentwining is a work in progress. and after 19 years, responsible for, of course, deep, burbling resentment among a people who have a right to expect more progress. >> hi, doug and alex. >> hey. >> with so for those of us who
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are not following south africa that closely, we saw the photograph in the newspaper of mandela and zuma, and mandela looked like he wanted to hit him over the head with a 2x4. and zuma's caressing his hand. and i want to know what's behind that. is it that mandela doesn't like zuma? is it that he is disgusted or disapproves of the way he's governing and the direction of south africa? is it that that he's just kind of a cranky guy who want to be left alone? does anybody know what pan della thinks at this point about the direction of south africa, and does that photograph tell you anything? >> wow. [laughter] >> i guess i should say thank you for that question. [laughter] i think the people who i rely on to tell me what mandela's thinking and doing is primarily
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the, you know, one of the informants in the book, the grandson who lives with him. and as a result of that, has given me good access into his thinking and what's happening in the family. the truth is he's a 94-year-old man about to turn 95, and i think to a certain extent -- and very ill. for the last couple years. the last time i saw him in 2010 he said as my son and i came into the room, it's nice that young people still come to see an old man who has nothing few to say. new to say. i think he's been trying very hard for a long time to retire. he retired, then retired from retirement, then he retired from his private retirement trying to
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send the message both to south africans and to the rest of us that he was, that he was done. and i think the fact that the anc staged that event in which the leadership of the party, you know, was allowed to be photographed with him tells you how insecure some of the leaders are about whether they're seen as carrying the mantle of man can della. so there's -- mandela. so there's a big struggle going on in south african politics to latch on to the legacy of mandela, to the spirit of mandela both by the opposition, democratic alliance, and by the anc. and i think the kind of reaction the anc got to those kind of staged photographs means that luckily i for mandela and for the rest of us it won't happen again. >> it was an incredibly controversial photograph, can you talk about the reaction?
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>> i mean, the video is just painful, you know? it's pain. it's video of leaders including president zuma kind of trying to get his attention, trying to get him to smile at them? you know, that's the money shot, that's the shot they wanted. and i suspect that he had the same kind of feeling towards them that he had to other visitors, which is it's amazing that young people keep coming to see an old man who has nothing new to say. i think the public reaction, if you followed the blog and the online reactions and and also just listened to the chat shows, which i do, you get up early, and you listen because the seven hours ahead, there was just a revulsion against the political class for this kind of crude raising the banner of mandela and trying to use it to anoint themselves.
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you know, mandela was a disciplined member of the african national congress his entire life. he gave his whole life to the party and to the struggle. so i'm sure when they told him that morning what was going to happen, he agreed to it. but the point when somebody's 94 or 95 is people should know not to ask. >> when you talk with young people who are in distress like jonathan, what,any, program -- if any, programs or institutions do you hear that are doing them some good whether it's government or faith-based or other? >> i would say all of the above. and jonathan himself has been reached by a small ngo in capetown working with homeless street kids. i think i if he's, you know, during the points when he's in a struggle with his moral
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conscience and getting off the street and not doing robberies, it's because of this amazing group of outreach workers. so some of them fate-based -- faith-based, some of them simply other young people who have gotten together and garnered some funding. there's many, many great programs involving skills building. this particular ngo trains young men to be bakers and has succeeded in educating and lacing in decent -- placing in decent jobs dozens of people in similar situations like jonathan. jonathan's a little bit difficult in that he doesn't want to be under anybody's thumb. so it's hard for him if he goes to 8 in the morning and some boss is telling him what to do, you know? and i think there's -- that, in
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a way, is a stand-in for some of the difficulty in the country in moving on. there was a, you know, understandable call by the liberation movement to make the country ungovernable, to create a generation of people who were so rebellious that this old system could no longer survive. and i think what we're seeing partly in the maturation of things in this south africa is a new generation coming along for which rebellion is not enough. knowing when to rebel and when to build skills in order to construct a new country becomes more, a bigger part of the agenda. >> thank you, doug, and thank you, alex. you know, you were talking a little bit about the,
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